“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” –Hemingway, died 1961 by self-inflicted shotgun wound.
When I first started writing this, I tackled it much like self-help books tackle depression, common sense. “Are you sleeping enough, eating well, and balancing your work and recreational life in a personally and spiritually fulfilling manner? If not, identify the problems and take logical steps to fix them.”
After a paragraph in, I realized that this method was full of shit. Because chances are, if you’re depressed and on WordPress reading this article, you’re just as intelligent and self-aware as I am. And logic-based psychotherapy just didn’t fly with me, because the problem wasn’t in my thought patterns (I like my thought patterns); it was how I processed emotion with these thought patterns.
I’m still a pessimistic realist. I still have the fundamental personal problems that precipitated my most recent bout of severe depression.
But I’m happy now.
I got there was by following the route that best suited me. These were what I identify as my three (not so simple) steps out of depression:
- Get meds
- Get friends
- Get laid (love)
For some people, 12 step programs are the way to go. It’s not for me. I’m not down with the Judeo-Christian undertones and way the members of AA and such victimize themselves to abstract concepts that help them psychologically absolve responsibility for what are arguably self-induced problems.
Let me elaborate in a cut what constituted my three-step process. I can only hope that it provides a helpful template for others.
1. Get Meds
[Legal preface: Although, I am a Board Certified and Licensed Pharmacy Technician, all knowledge here is second-hand information and should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice from your medical practitioner.]
When 1/3 of our teenagers are on anti-depressants, I’m starting to think that depression is less of a disorder and more of a social phenomenon due to lifestyle inflation. But that’s another post for another day.
Here’s something that I know for sure: Prozac helped me. It took me three years and tons of failed attempts of frustrating side effects to find the right SSRI. I also use ambien for my insomnia and it’s a lifesaver.
I know, personally, that a lot of people failing with medication make the mistake of not giving the medication enough time to work properly, the proper time being 4-6 weeks.
Here’s the questions I asked, “If it’s ‘fixing’ a chemical imbalance why are there side-effects and why does it take so damn long to work.”
Answer: There’s no scientifically proven thing as a “chemical imbalance” when it comes to depression. What is scientifically proven is that anti-depressants raise the level of serotonin and sometimes other chemicals in the brain that directly cause happiness.
The reason it takes nearly a month is a complicated biochemical reason, but here’s the way I describe it to the laymen. After the initial high from antidepressants, the spike of serotonin, the brain gets confused and actually slows down production of serotonin. It takes 4-6 weeks for the brain to become used to the medication and for the total level of serotonin to actually rise.
2. Get Friends:
Humans are social animals and most need interaction with others to be happy. You need people to share your hobbies with, people to have conversation with, and people with like-minds to keep your brain sharp.
I can’t write a complete social etiquette guide here, but I can give some key advice on making new friends, which is, of course, easier said than done: You have to push through shyness and fear of rejection. Smile and be a genuinely nice person with the “do unto others” attitude. Don’t isolate. And don’t let the bastards bring you down.
3. Get laid (love):
I don’t think I need to make a defense for sex being awesome. It’s finding someone with whom you have a legitimate emotional connection that’s the hard part.
My boyfriend found me on the best free dating website ever, okcupid. And he has probably been the most significant factor in fixing my depression.
I can’t give a step by step guide for success with dating, but it’s a similar concept to making friends. We’re not made to do this life thing alone. A large part about dating, especially if you’re a man, is all about the confidence. You have to push through shyness and fear of rejection. Smile and be a genuinely nice person. And don’t let the bastards bring you down.
[edit: I’m depressed and hate this article now. I made a separate blog for more depressive musings at: http://bikinguphilldrunk.wordpress.com/]